Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Easter parade

April 23rd, 2011

LIKE ME, you may have imagined that the prolonged snow and ice of the winter would have delayed spring and the farmers' sowing programme   The opposite appears to be the case   I've spoken to several farmers in recent days and they are, if anything, up to a week ahead of last year's timetable.

If nature suffered any check because of the hard weather, the warm days we've been enjoying have been the motivation she was waiting for   It's almost as though, lying dormant under a blanket of snow for seven weeks, nature had a chance to build up reserves to produce a spectacular springtime.

We've noticed it in the garden   The daffodils skipped into bloom but their season has been much shorter than we would expect and they are dying back after scarcely a week in flower   By contrast the hellebores, or Lenten lilies as the Doyenne calls them, are having a wonderful season, producing masses of flowers   And a pieris, which has been pretty grumpy since we planted it four years ago, is glowing with flaming pink foliage.

And it's not just the plants   From the kitchen window we watched a solemn procession emerge from the woods at the back of the house   It was a mallard duck – the drakes have lost all interest in their families by now, leaving the ducks to bring them up on their own – with a tail of ten ducklings pattering through the carpet of beech leaves and scrambling over chuckie stones that must have seemed like boulders to them.

The ducklings were maybe ten days old, and I'll bet they came from a nest along the bank of the burn that runs close to the house   Out with the dogs on the morning walk we disturbed a drake a couple of times and, rather than flying off, he swam downstream, drawing the dogs' attention away from the sitting mother.

Frothy white blossom hanging off the geans – Scottish wild cherry trees – lifts the spirits   Blackthorn bushes planted amongst the roadside beech hedges are in cascades of Chantilly lace   When the Irish have a springtime spell of almost summer-like sunshine such as we've just had, and the blossom is heavy on the bushes, they call it a blackthorn summer   An Irish girl told me that.

We're more prosaic in Scotland   We just look forward to a rich harvest of sloes and the pleasures of sloe gin, and warming Hogmanay cheer.

We stopped at the top of Stracathro Brae   The morning was bright and clear. Looking up and down the great vale of Strathmore we saw all the signs of spring activity   Brown, ridged potato fields, blocks of bright yellow from the daffodil fields and the emergent green of the spring sown barley.

It was the Doyenne who noticed – not a field of plastic to be seen!

Written on Saturday, April 23rd, 2011 at 9:38 am for Weekly.